There was a flood of stories this week about the fate of nearly 1,100 workers at del Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County, but it was largely an overreaction to the publication of a notice that casino officials issued two weeks ago.
Del Lago announced on July 13 that it would issue Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications to its employees to prepare for potential layoffs. The WARN notices must be issued at least 60 days before a plant closing or mass layoffs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The state Department of Labor says WARN notices must be sent when a business is closing or it plans to lay off either 33% of its workforce or at least 250 employees.
The casino's WARN notice appeared on the state Department of Labor's website this week. The reason for the filing, according to the document, is a "temporary plant closing." The total number of employees affected is 1,077.
With the WARN notice's publication, there was a slew of stories reporting that del Lago had either cut jobs or laid off employees. But Lance Young, del Lago's executive vice president and general manager, said nothing has changed from two weeks ago.
"On July 13, pursuant to state and federal regulations, del Lago issued WARN notices to all company employees that are currently furloughed," Young said in a statement. "On July 24, they were simply posted to the Department of Labor's website. Nothing new occurred and the notices do not reflect termination or 'cuts,' but are required by state and federal governments when workers are furloughed for a certain period of time."
Del Lago had to close on March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After paying employees for a few weeks, the workforce was furloughed on April 9.
Before the shutdown, del Lago made adjustments to limit capacity, maintain social distancing and ensure that machines, tables and other areas are cleaned. But it wasn't enough to prevent the state from ordering the commercial casinos to close.
When New York began its regional reopening process, the casinos — del Lago is one of four commercial casinos operating in the state — hoped to be included in one of the four phases. Native American-owned casinos, which aren't subject to state oversight, began to reopen in June.
But the phased reopening didn't cover casinos. Three weeks ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state was reviewing data, but casinos didn't receive clearance to reopen.
The uncertainty is the main reason why del Lago issued the WARN notices. Without a definitive reopening date, they don't know when operations will resume and employees can return to work. If the shutdown continues for an extended period, layoffs may be necessary.
In the meantime, del Lago has a reopening plan. It is based on federal and state guidelines, as well as what other casinos have done in other states. As they did before the shutdown, del Lago will limit capacity on the gaming floor and implement social distancing in the slot machine area and at table games. The casino's restaurants will also operate at reduced capacity.
Employees and guests will be screened before entering the facility. Workers will be issued personal protective equipment.
"We appreciate Governor Cuomo's leadership during this time and are eager to safely open our doors and welcome back our employees and patrons," Young said.
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.
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